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Lesson Plan

Name That Chapter! Discussing Summary and Interpretation Using Chapter Titles

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Name That Chapter! Discussing Summary and Interpretation Using Chapter Titles

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Traci Gardner

Traci Gardner

Blacksburg, Virginia


National Council of Teachers of English



From Theory to Practice



Writing conventions, like styles in fashion, seem to change with the times. While serialized writers such as Mark Twain and Charles Dickens typically named each of the chapters in their writings, modern writers typically do not give titles to individual chapters. Consider J. D. Salinger, John Steinbeck, and Harper Lee, for example, who merely number the chapters in their works.

Students first explore novels with named chapters, noting characteristics of the chapter titles. They then turn those characteristics into a set of guidelines that they will use to name unnamed chapters in another book they are reading. As students read their novel, they name the chapters, creating a cumulative list for the novel as they proceed. Students' titles are discussed and debated before the class settles on a choice. In the process, students actively explore reading comprehension, summary, paraphrase, accuracy, and connotation.

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Current research in reading emphasizes the interactive process. By naming chapters in this lesson, students take the responsibility for their own learning. They must reflect on their reading, make decisions, choose words carefully and exactly, and be prepared to justify their responses. Chapter titles create immediate discussion and debate. Finally, the cumulative list makes it possible for the entire class or the individual student to review an entire novel, whether using the author's titles, as in the case of a novel like A Tale of Two Cities, or newly created titles, as in the cases of Catcher in the Rye or To Kill a Mockingbird.

Further Reading

Broida, Edith. 1995. "Name That Chapter!" in Teaching Literature in High School: The Novel, pp. 41-42. Urbana, IL: NCTE.

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